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1  Tonight I cooked dinner using the sun! (Super easy and cheap solar oven) in Recipes and Cooking Tips by ladybuggems on: June 25, 2008 10:20:08 PM
I'm 8 months pregnant and it's been hot (at least for me) here in soCal, so I was looking for a way to cook a meal without heating my house up...I came upon this awesome site on building your own solar ovens: http://www.solarcooking.org/plans/  Solar ovens also have the awesome benefit of requiring no energy input other than the sun and no pollutants, etc....very earth-friendly!

I was inspired to try out the simple plan for making a funnel-style solar cooker with a windshield sun shade that people use to keep their cars cool.  I didn't want to spend a lot of time or money on the thing...I bought a jumbo size (think for a big truck windshield) sunshade at Walmart for $3.50, and some Reynolds Oven Bags for $2.  I already had a black anodized aluminum pot with a glass lid, a cake rack and some clothespins lying around, so this was a very cheap experiment.

After some fiddling with the shade and several different clothespin constructed designs, I finally got the shape I thought I'd need, and tried it out today with just 2 inches of water in the pot:

The shade was a bit floppy, so I used my kiddo's chair to prop the thing up.

After an hour on a 73F day, the water was steaming, bubbles were forming on the bottom and sides of the pot and the pot itself was too hot to touch.  Convinced I could get the pot hot, I tried making an indian style curry for dinner in the thing...raw chicken and all even though I wasn't sure it would be hot enough to cook something.

Dinner ala Solar Oven:

I used the oven bag this time, hoping that would keep the heat in.
After 2.5 hours in the sun, here's how it looked:

Chicken and veggies cooked perfectly! My own solar crock pot!

Anyway, I'm pretty thrilled at how cheap and easy it was...so I thought I'd share.  The best part of this design is that I can take it apart and fold up the shade for storage....it'd be great for camping or  for a picnic too.
This site has some great info on solar cooking, including recipes, etc if you'd like more info:

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2  A fishing we will go... in Toys, Dolls and Playthings: Completed Projects by ladybuggems on: December 08, 2007 08:10:37 PM
As part of my effort to provide a handmade Christmas for my family and to avoid buying toxic toys, I made a magnetic fishing game for my daughter out of felt. I did it cheap and quicklythese could look a lot cuter if I took more time sewing and decorating them, but I was short on time and she seems to like them (had to let her play with them early when she discovered me working on them).

 I recycled the magnets from a cheap knock off version of a magnetix building set and just hot glued the felt shapes over them. Add some button eyes, and the fish were ready to go. For the hooks, I used super strong magnets my husband found on eBay for another projectif youre planning on making these, youll have to experiment with the magnet strengths to make sure theyre strong enough to pick up the fish, but not so strong they pinch little fingers. Just attached the hooks to garden twine and dowels for the polesyou could cover and pad the poles with felt to make them a bit safer.

Gratuitous action shot:

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3  Broccoli, Ham and CheeseOh, My! in Recipes and Cooking Tips by ladybuggems on: December 08, 2007 08:06:41 PM

I inherited a large portion of the ham and broccoli left overs from Thanksgiving this yearheres what I did with em:

Ham, Broccoli, and Rice Casserole
4-6 Servings

2 C diced cooked ham
2 C cooked rice
2 C chopped broccoli
1 medium onion chopped
1 C grated/cubed medium cheddar cheese
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1 to 2 C chicken stock
1 C half and half
2 tsp dry mustard
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1 C crushed buttery crackers

Boil broccoli until just tender and still bright green; drain and set aside. Pour rice into bottom of a casserole dish and spread evenly. Top with the broccoli and diced ham.

In a saucepan, melt butter, and add onion. Saut until onion is tender. Sprinkle flour over onion and toast for one minute. Add mustard, Worcestershire sauce, chicken stock and half and half. Simmer until thickened. Add cheese and once melted, season to taste with salt and pepper.

Top the casserole evenly with sauce, and then with cracker crumbs. Bake at 400F for 15-20 minutes or until heated through and crackers are just toasted.
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4  Get those little idle hands busy...with shortbread! in Recipes and Cooking Tips by ladybuggems on: December 08, 2007 07:59:23 PM
Got a restless little person running around your house driving you crazy? Get those little idle hands busy by making some Oatmeal Shortbread! These satisfying cookies combine the chewiness of toasted oatmeal with the buttery goodness of shortbread, and are very easy to make.

Heres how:

Oatmeal Shortbread
Yields 12-16 servings

1 C rolled oats (coarse ground in a blender or food processor)
C flour
C packed brown sugar
C (1 stick) butter
tsp baking soda
tsp water
Dash of salt

Preheat oven to 375 F

Dissolve the baking soda in the water and set aside.

Combine all other ingredients in a bowl, and cut butter into the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the baking soda mixture and mix in well (little hands work great for this).

Press into the bottom of an 117 inch pan:

Prick with a fork:

Bake at 375F for 12 to 15 minutes, cool and enjoy with the little one.

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5  Chain Maille Pendants (byzantine weave) in Trinkets and Jewelry: Completed Projects: General by ladybuggems on: November 18, 2007 04:05:01 PM
I dusted off my "Chains by Becky" book, and was inspired to make some byzantine pendants.  What do you think?

To see the book (a very good intro to chain maille by the way):http://theringlord.com/cart/shopdisplayproducts.asp?id=9&cat=instructions
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6  Beaded Ring Necklaces in Trinkets and Jewelry: Completed Projects: General by ladybuggems on: November 15, 2007 09:38:36 PM
In the midst of making Christmas presents, I got some time to make a few necklaces using beaded rings.  There's a link to the tutorial to make the rings below:




Beaded Ring Tutorial:http://www.ladybuggems.com/blog/2007/11/15/beaded-ring-components-tutorial/
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7  Felt Food FTW! in Toys, Dolls and Playthings: Completed Projects by ladybuggems on: November 12, 2007 02:52:47 PM
I've always admired the plush felt food people post on Craftster and sell on Etsy, and with the recent success of my first plushie, I had all the motivation I needed to attempt some felt food of my own.

I dove right in...made my own patterns, and I think I nailed three out of four pretty decently.  All of them are recognizable enough for my 3 year old to play with, but I'm not thrilled with the toast, and will have to try a different approach with that one. See for yourself:

Fried Eggs:

Chocolate Chip Cookies:

Pancakes with Syrup and Butter:

I'm happiest with the eggs and cookies...so-so with the pancakes and definitely not happy with the toast. Not too bad for the first time around. My fingers are sore, but that won't stop me from making more..... Smiley

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8  My first plushie!! Suzie Bunny in Toys, Dolls and Playthings: Completed Projects by ladybuggems on: November 10, 2007 10:33:36 PM
This was my first attempt at hand-sewing a felt plushie. We've christened her Suzie Bunny. She's my own design, and I have to say I'm a bit proud of her for my first stab at it.

It was a fun project, and I'm definitely gonna make some more. This one became a gift for my cousin's 4 year-old daughter. Now my daughter wants one, so I'd better get stitching!

Suzie's close up:

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9  Beaded Daisy Chain Components in Trinkets and Jewelry: Completed Projects: General by ladybuggems on: November 02, 2007 09:49:44 PM
Most of my jewelry is wire based, so I thought I'd try something new, and turn a popular beading motif into a component. I've always liked daisy chains, so thought I'd start there.

 I used tigertail (nylon coated braided stainless steel) to make two simple but cute daisy chain motifs. In this necklace the daisy chain motifs flank an abalone shell bead on a satin cord. I can't wait to try these components out in earrings and maybe in some multi-strand necklaces and bracelets.

If you've never made daisy chains before, they are really easy. Here is a good tutorial: http://beadwork.about.com/library/weekly/aadaisychain.htm.
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10  Garage Sales Rule! in Crafty Housewares: Completed Projects: Reconstructed by ladybuggems on: November 01, 2007 01:41:29 PM
I found this great little beat-up childrens rocking chair for $1 a few weekends ago, but between the smoke, ash and evacuation scares of "Firestorm 2007" here in SoCal, it's taken me until now to finish repainting it.

All it needed was a little TLC. Before:

After some glue, sanding, paint and kid stamping, Ta-da:

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